Wednesday, November 07, 2007

New online tool aids literacy programs.

This post comes from eSchoolNews. Schools, libraries, and other organizations that aim to improve students' reading skills have a new online tool to help them evaluate how well their literacy programs work: the Verizon Literacy Program Self-Assessment Tool (VLP-SAT).

Developed by the National Center for Family Literacy (NCFL) with funding from the Verizon Foundation, VLP-SAT is available free of charge to all literacy programs from one location, the Verizon Foundation's

"Thousands of people give their time and effort daily to advance the cause of literacy, but unfortunately, despite those great efforts, literacy rates in our country are still not where they need to be," said Sharon Darling, president and founder of NCFL.

"We believe this self-assessment tool can play a tremendous role in improving literacy rates," Darling said. "It provides a roadmap with more scope and depth than any other tool currently available."

This "roadmap" incorporates the latest scientific research on the effectiveness of literacy programs that serve populations from birth through childhood, its makers say. The online tool provides a detailed questionnaire that asks about a literacy program's methods, the education level of its students, parental involvement, and current methods used to assess the program's success.

Based on answers to the questionnaire, the literacy provider is given a grade of 1 to 5 in each of several areas. These grades describe whether the organization is using proven, research-based methods and achieving the best possible results.

For schools and other organizations that receive a score of "3" or lower in any particular area, the tool provides a list of recommended resources created by literacy and education experts. All of these resources are available free of charge at as part of the Thinkfinity Literacy Network. is the Verizon Foundation's free online portal, where visitors can access more than 55,000 standards- and research-based educational resources. These include free online courses, K-12 lesson plans, best practices, program assessment tools, teaching and learning tools, model programs that demystify technology for parents, and abundant research highlighting the importance of literacy development.

Ideally, program staff will use the VLP-SAT as a benchmark to evaluate current literacy practices, seek out resources to improve key areas, and return to the VLP-SAT to assess program improvement, its creators say.

The tool was unveiled last month as part of the Verizon Foundation's National Literacy Summit.3, held at Georgetown University.

"We asked ourselves at the last summit where our philanthropy dollars should go, and we answered: to help leverage each other's assets and skills and to start some sort of measurement ... here are some measurements!" said Kathy Brown, senior vice president of public policy and corporate responsibility for Verizon. Click here to read the rest of this post.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Fail-Proof Tips for Adults Back at School.

This article is from job, family, and friends -- these commitments are challenging enough to juggle without the added education factor. How can you make the school reentry process as seamless as possible? Check out these study tips, college support services, and insider strategies to get you started on your own personal back-to-school transition.

The Art of Time Management
Stephen Gatlin, president and CEO of Gatlin Education Services, which provides online workforce development programs to colleges, considers time management the biggest factor in back-to-school success. He recommends that students determine when they focus best, such as in the morning or at night, before caffeine or after. Then, Gatlin says, "Reserve time to dedicate to your course. Stay committed and treat [that time] like an appointment that can't be budged."

Frank Hilty, a mining engineer, has experienced the back-to-school adjustment twice. He returned to college to complete his bachelor's degree 12 years after starting, and now, eight years after earning that degree, he's pursuing an MBA at Waynesburg College. Hilty, who blocks out two to three hours of study time for every hour of in-class time, advises, "If you are working, you must treat class work as a part-time job with specific responsibilities. Do not procrastinate. Even if you only take one course at a time, you will find yourself quickly overwhelmed if you let the work pile up. Our regular jobs and families have a way, and they should, of commanding our attention."

Jason Yaple, a geologist who has been taking courses at Penn State and West Chester University of Pennsylvania to earn a professional geology certification, echoes these sentiments. "Figure out the amount of time you will need to study and perform the coursework. Then be prepared to invest even more time." Click here to read the rest of this article.

Monday, November 05, 2007

For the Health-Care Work Force, a Critical Prognosis.

This article comes from The Chronicle of Higher Education.

This The United States faces a looming shortage of many types of health-care professionals, including nurses, physicians, dentists, pharmacists, and allied-health and public-health workers. The results will be felt acutely within the next 10 years. Colleges and health-science programs will all be affected by the demographic, technological, and bureaucratic trends driving the pending crisis. But they can also be part of the solution.

The growth of the American population and the aging of the baby-boomer generation will continue to increase the demand for health-care services and providers. More than 100 million people in America already have chronic illnesses or suffer from degenerative conditions such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and arthritis, which require long-term management by different kinds of health-care providers — and that number will only get larger with time. It is estimated that over the next decade we will need at least 20,000 more physicians specifically trained to care for elderly patients. Fewer than 8,000 geriatricians are in practice today. The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics also projects that, during that same time period, we will need 3.5 million more workers to meet the increasing demand, in addition to replacements for the two million health-care workers who will leave their positions.

On top of that, advances in fields like genetics and information technology will create additional work-force requirements that we can't even begin to estimate. We will need more and different kinds of practitioners and technicians, be they robotic-surgery operators or new types of radiology technologists. But given the current number of people entering the health-care work force, it will be virtually impossible to meet those projections.

After September 11, 2001, there was a slight uptick in applications and enrollments at many health-professions schools, following a period of decline during the 1990s. This fall the nation's medical schools experienced a 2.3-percent increase in enrollment and an 8.2-percent increase in applications, the Association of American Medical Colleges reports. That is heartening news, but there have not been changes of the magnitude needed to make a difference in our health work force.

Different expectations and lifestyle preferences on the part of today's health-care workers are partly to blame. Thirty years ago, in what was more of a manufacturing economy, young people saw health care as high tech. In today's information age, it is now viewed as more low tech. The messiness and stress of caring for people with complex illnesses may not be attractive to young people who have many career options. The hurdles to degrees in the health professions — including extensive math and science course work, expensive education, daunting debts, and lengthy training — are also likely deterrents.

Other potential problems are related to generational change. The future health-care work force will come largely from Generations X and Y, both smaller demographic groups than the baby boomers. Compared with the boomers, who placed a high priority on careers and had a greater tendency to stay with one career for a lifetime, Xers and Yers appear more interested in work that can accommodate their families and personal lives. They often seek flexibility, telecommuting, family leave, and part-time options — almost none of which can be met by the demands of a career in the health-care professions. Even if the same proportion of individuals was recruited into health-care careers from the two younger generations as from the boomers, however, we would still not have enough people to replace those who will soon retire, let alone expand our capacity.

More bad news: Our country faces worsening shortages of faculty members in the health sciences. In July the Association of Academic Health Centers released a report that said 94 percent of CEOs at academic-health centers deemed faculty shortages a problem in at least one health-professions school; 69 percent thought those shortages were a problem for their entire institutions.

Several factors account for the widespread faculty shortages, including a low level of interest in academic careers among those entering the health-care professions, heavy faculty workloads, disparities in salaries between academe and private practice or industry, and retirements among baby boomers.

In colleges of nursing, for example, where master's or doctoral degrees are required, the mean age of faculty members with master's degrees in nursing is 48.5. Retirement projections for nursing-faculty members show that from 2004 to 2012, 200 to 300 Ph.D.'s will be eligible for retirement each year. We do not have enough nursing educators in the pipeline to stem such losses.

The situation is similar in pharmacy programs. Of the nation's 82 schools of pharmacy, 67 reported in a survey that they had an average of 6.2 vacant faculty positions last year. Thirty percent of the open academic positions had been vacant for at least a year. Most important, 92 percent of those vacancies represented teaching positions that directly affect the number of pharmacy students a school can enroll.

In radiology, a specialty that suffers one of the worst shortages in the health field, the average age of full-time professors is 54. It is anticipated that within the next couple of years, 27 percent of full-time and 80 percent of part-time positions will be vacant, in large part because of retirements — a trend not dissimilar to those in other health-care professions. The shortages in radiology are compounded, however, by an escalating reliance on (and consumer demand for) medical-imaging procedures and a decreasing number of programs for training those health professionals.

The final crucial factor precipitating the health-care-work-force crisis is a lack of comprehensive work-force planning on the parts of academe, government, and the health-care professions. We need strategic direction instead of the current piecemeal approach at the national and state levels; both federal and state policy making has tended to respond to immediate crises or issues related to one particular profession or constituency. Commissions and task forces abound, yet many reports gather dust on shelves; the infrastructure for putting good ideas or new policies into effect is at best uneven.

Shortages in the health-care work force are not local or isolated issues. They require attention at the highest levels of the federal and state governments. College leaders should work together with government officials to make that a top priority on the domestic-policy agenda.

Some states — with the help of their university systems — have looked across the professions to confront health-care-worker shortages. In 2005 the University System of Georgia appointed a task force on health-professions education to analyze future needs and inform decision making in response to the needs of the state. In its final report, the Task Force on Health Professions Education cited projected faculty retirements, smaller pools of potential faculty members, inadequate facilities to support expanded enrollments, and a limited number of clinical sites to support the clinical-education needs of students enrolled in the state's health-professions programs as barriers to an effective and coordinated response to market demand. Programmatic integration also was identified as a confounding issue: The report identified a crucial need for the university system to work closely with the state's technical-college system, the primary educator of health-care technicians and paraprofessionals, to ensure transparency and clarity in educational requirements so that students are able to move successfully between the educational systems.

Such collaborations between colleges and states are a good beginning. But higher education and the government must become partners on the federal level as well. The institutions that educate the nation's future health-care professionals must work together to devise innovative solutions to the myriad challenges we face — and must finance them, too.

The federal government should enlist the leaders of academic health centers nationwide as key advisers to tackle the challenges confronting the health-care work force, thus reinvigorating a longstand-ing partnership to support education in the health professions and ensure quality care to the public for the future.

The creation of a national commission on the health-care work force would also be a boon. Such a commission, renewable every 10 years, would serve as the chief advising body to Congress and the president on the subject. While it would have no regulatory power, it would be the independent expert panel to identify issues, analyze policy affecting the health-care work force, examine the benefits and risks of health-care legislation, evaluate the education and research functions of academic health centers and other educational institutions, and recommend ways to resolve problems as well as to plan proactively. The commission would provide a forum for interaction at the national level for groups representing health educators, biomedical scientists, and health-care providers.

Colleges and health-sciences centers must also deal with the work-force shortage issue at their own institutions. They should address the growing shortages of health-professions faculty members by supporting faculty-development programs and expanding accelerated training programs. Continuing education is a key strategy in retaining health-professions faculty members, as are mentorship programs — particularly for retaining junior members of the professoriate and those groups that have been historically underrepresented in the health-care professions.

Offering loan-repayment and loan-forgiveness programs would also be a draw. The high incidence of debt among graduates often drives health-care professionals to the most lucrative employment settings. Forgiving debt or offering generous loan-repayment plans creates more flexibility for colleges and universities in efforts to attract professionals to academic careers. And to augment their core faculty members with nonsalaried, community-based clinicians who can provide valuable field-based clinical experiences, as health-professions programs must do, institutions can offer enticements like discounted or free registration in the continuing-education programs, tuition discounts or waivers, and access to other institutional resources (recreational facilities, for instance).

Colleges and health-science centers must also focus on increasing and improving the applicant pool, not simply in terms of sheer numbers and mix of health professions, but also with regard to diversity.

Alarming disparities in health status continue to plague our nation. A health-care work force that mirrors the population it serves is widely believed to increase access to care and improve quality of care; therefore, increasing the recruitment of individuals from diverse backgrounds to the health professions is crucial in light of the increasing diversity of the American population. Colleges and health-science centers must focus on untapped populations, such as underrepresented minorities and health professionals trained abroad. Accelerated training programs could be offered to ensure that the clinical and language skills of such health-care providers are at acceptable levels. In areas with rapidly growing Hispanic populations, bilingual students could be targeted as medical interpreters, providing invaluable exposure to the health-care system — and increasing the likelihood that they will pursue careers in the health professions.

The health-care shortage we face in the United States is serious. Some experts may argue that there is no cause for alarm, because work-force shortages are cyclical, market-driven, and easily ameliorated. But that perspective is not valid today. The work-force shortfall in health care cannot be resolved in the marketplace alone. It is time for organized action, not only within colleges, but also at our nation's highest levels.

Daniel W. Rahn is president of the Medical College of Georgia and senior vice chancellor for health and medical programs at the University System of Georgia. Steven A. Wartman is president and CEO of the Association of Academic Health Centers.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Gatlin Education launches Cisco® CCENT™ Authorized Certification Online Training.

We are pleased to announce the immediate availability of our new Cisco® CCENT™ Authorized Certification Online Training. This nationally recognized Cisco® CCENT™ online course and authorized certification training program provides students with the essential knowledge to install, operate, and troubleshoot a small branch office Enterprise network, including configuring a switch, a router, and connecting to a WAN and implementing network security. A student should be able to complete configuration and implementation of a small branch office network under supervision. The program will be mapped to exam objectives and prepare you for Cisco® Exam 640-822. This online certificate program is offered in partnership with major accredited colleges and universities.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Classroom of the Future Is Virtually Anywhere.

This article comes from The New York Times. The university classroom of the future is in Janet Duck’s dining room on East Chocolate Avenue here.

There is no blackboard and no lectern, and, most glaringly, no students. Dr. Duck teaches her classes in Pennsylvania State University’s master’s program in business administration by sitting for several hours each day in jeans and shag-lined slippers at her dining table, which in soccer mom fashion is cluttered with crayon sketches by her 6-year-old Elijah and shoulder pads for her 9-year-old Olivia’s Halloween costume.

In this homespun setting, the spirited Dr. Duck pecks at a Toshiba laptop and posts lesson content, readings and questions for her two courses on “managing human resources” that touch on topics like performance evaluations and recruitment. The instructional software allows her 54 students to log on from almost anywhere at any time and post remarkably extended responses, the equivalent of a blog about the course. Recently, the class exchanged hard-earned experiences about how managers deal with lackluster workers.

Those students, mostly 30-ish middle managers and professionals trying to enhance their skills, cannot be with her in a Penn State classroom at a set time. One woman is an Air Force pilot flying missions over Afghanistan; other global travelers filed comments last week from Tokyo, Athens, São Paulo and Copenhagen. Dr. Duck cannot regularly be at Penn State, largely because of her three children. Yet she and other instructors will help the students acquire standard M.B.A.’s next August at a total cost of $52,000, with each side having barely stepped into a traditional classroom. To read the rest of this article click here.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Gatlin Education's Cisco CCNA online certification program has been updated.

Gatlin Education's Cisco CCNA Certification online training program has been updated to map to the newly released CCNA Certification Exam 640-802. In order to prepare students to obtain the most current CCNA® certification credential, this program is comprised of content from both Interconnecting Cisco® Network Devices Part 1 and Interconnecting Cisco® Network Devices Part 2.

No other online self-paced program is as up-to-date or as complete as this package! This Cisco® Authorized program contains elearning and a 24/7 mentor to answer any questions you may have and to provide feedback on your performance. In addition, each student will receive an actual Cisco IOS® simulation to provide students with a playground to practice CCNA®, enabling students to interact with routers and switches just like real devices. This 100 hour course is available now!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Libraries Shun Deals to Place Books on Web.

This post is from The New York Times. Several major research libraries have rebuffed offers from Google and Microsoft to scan their books into computer databases, saying they are put off by restrictions these companies want to place on the new digital collections.

The research libraries, including a large consortium in the Boston area, are instead signing on with the Open Content Alliance, a nonprofit effort aimed at making their materials broadly available.

Libraries that agree to work with Google must agree to a set of terms, which include making the material unavailable to other commercial search services. Microsoft places a similar restriction on the books it converts to electronic form. The Open Content Alliance, by contrast, is making the material available to any search service. Click here to read the rest of this article.